Civic Solidarity Platform Appeal with Regard to the Recent Events in Belarus

Aug 12 2020

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SHOULD REACT IMMEDIATELY AND STRONGLY TO RIGGED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND MASSIVE VIOLENCE OF SECURITY FORCES AGAINST PEACEFUL PROTESTORS IN BELARUS

Appeal by members of the Civic Solidarity Platform

10 August 2020

The undersigned organizations, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, express their shock and outrage about the way the 9 August presidential elections in Belarus have been manipulated by the government.

We support peaceful protests of Belarusians against this flagrant violation of standards for the conduct of elections agreed in the OSCE. We strongly denounce disproportionate and excessive use of violence by security forces and mass detention of several thousand of protest participants across the country.

The weeks preceding the election day have been marred by systemic and systematic violations of fundamental rights and freedoms. This created no conditions for free and fair elections according to international standards. We have witnessed independent candidates illegally disqualified from running in elections. Several candidates, their supporters, and others questioning the current government policies were persecuted through penal and administrative means, and their freedom of expression was severely limited. According to Belarusian human rights organizations, 26 political prisoners were held in detention in the run-up to the elections. Independent domestic observation of the elections has been thwarted under false pretexts, and many independent observers were illegally detained. International election observation, including by the OSCE, was blocked by the authorities. Media coverage was severely restricted.

On the election day, the few independent election observers who were present at the polling stations, as well as journalists and civic activists, have reported mass falsifications. A number of foreign journalists were detained and taken to the police stations due to lacking accreditation which most of them applied for in a timely manner but received rejections. Internet and mobile connection in the country was poor since early morning of the election day and most of social media and independent news sites were blocked. By the evening, military vehicles arrived in Minsk and public transport was shut down. After the preliminary official results were announced in the evening, mass peaceful protests started in the city centers in Minsk, Brest, Mogilev and dozens of other cities across the country. Witnesses reported brutal assaults of the protestors by the riot police. They used water cannons, flash grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and brutal force against the protestors. Dozens of injured protesters are in hospitals; several are in critical conditions. According to the official data, at least three thousand protestors have been detained. We consider disproportionate and brutal use of force and detention of protestors illegal.

Given the developments in the run-up to the elections and on the election day, we consider these elections the most violent and non-transparent in the modern history of Belarus. Official results of the elections cannot be considered reflecting the true will of Belarusian people.

We demand that the Belarusian authorities:

  • Acknowledge massive irregularities in holding the elections and publish the election results reflecting the true choice of the Belarusian people;
  • Engage in direct dialogue with representatives of independent candidates to negotiate a peaceful and legal way out of the crisis;
  • Immediately stop unwarranted violence against protesters, release the detained, and respect the right to peaceful assembly;
  • Observe the rights of all detainees and immediately notify their families about their whereabouts and provide unhindered access for lawyers;
  • Hold an independent, prompt and effective investigation of cases of violence, with maximum transparency and under international control, to end impunity on the part of the security forces;
  • End the blocking of the Internet and obstructing the work of journalists.

We call on the international community, and in particular other OSCE participating States:

  • Not to recognize the election outcome that has been officially announced;
  • Direct urgent efforts towards de-escalation and launching a mediated dialogue on a peaceful way out of the crisis respecting the principles of international law, that would include all sectors of Belarusian society that want to engage on this basis;
  • Hold an urgent discussion in the OSCE on the crisis in Belarus, and consider the invoking the OSCE Moscow Mechanism as the most relevant and expedient way to hold an internationally trusted investigation into the events in Belarus;
  • Hold urgent consultations in the EU on the events in Belarus and consider relevant and adequate reaction to the possibly most violent and non-transparent elections in the modern Belarus history;
  • Hold an urgent debate on the crisis in Belarus at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. We urge the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to take a lead in the UN Human Rights reaction to the events in Belarus and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus to produce an urgent report and present it to the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly.

List of organizations supporting the appeal:

  1. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
  2. Center for Participation and Development (Georgia)
  3. Truth Hounds (Ukraine)
  4. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  5. Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement (Ukraine)
  6. Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
  7. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
  8. Foundation of Regional Initiatives (Ukraine)
  9. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
  10. International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)
  11. World Organization against Torture (OMCT) (Belgium)
  12. Human Rights Center (Georgia)
  13. Kharkiv Regional Foundation Public Alternative (Ukraine)
  14. Public Association “Dignity” (Kazakhstan)
  15. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  16. Human Rights Center ZMINA (Ukraine)
  17. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)
  18. DRA – German-Russian Exchange (Germany)
  19. Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
  20. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
  21. Freedom Files (Poland)
  22. Office of Civil Freedoms (Tajikistan)
  23. Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
  24. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
  25. Social Action Centre (Ukraine)
  26. Public Association “Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
  27. Swiss Helsinki Committee
  28. Citizens’ Watch (Russia)
  29. Norwegian Helsinki Committee
  30. Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (Azerbaijan/Switzerland)
  31. Human Rights Club (Azerbaijan/Switzerland)
  32. Moscow Helsinki Group (Russia)
  33. Public Foundation “Voice of Freedom” (Kyrgyzstan)
  34. Human Rights Center Memorial (Russia)
  35. OSCE Network (Sweden)
  36. SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Russia)
  37. Women of the Don (Russia)
  38. The Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
  39. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
  40. Helsinki Association (Armenia)
  41. The Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medial Rehabilitation of Torture Victims – GCRT
  42. humanrights.ch (Switzerland)
  43. Promo LEX (Moldova)
  44. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Slovakia
  45. Free Russia Foundation (the U.S., Ukraine, Georgia, the Czech Republic)

Originally published by Civic Solidarity Platform

Photo credit: TUT.BY

Appeal by members of the Civic Solidarity Platform

10 August 2020

The undersigned organizations, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, express their shock and outrage about the way the 9 August presidential elections in Belarus have been manipulated by the government.

We support peaceful protests of Belarusians against this flagrant violation of standards for the conduct of elections agreed in the OSCE. We strongly denounce disproportionate and excessive use of violence by security forces and mass detention of several thousand of protest participants across the country.

The weeks preceding the election day have been marred by systemic and systematic violations of fundamental rights and freedoms. This created no conditions for free and fair elections according to international standards. We have witnessed independent candidates illegally disqualified from running in elections. Several candidates, their supporters, and others questioning the current government policies were persecuted through penal and administrative means, and their freedom of expression was severely limited. According to Belarusian human rights organizations, 26 political prisoners were held in detention in the run-up to the elections. Independent domestic observation of the elections has been thwarted under false pretexts, and many independent observers were illegally detained. International election observation, including by the OSCE, was blocked by the authorities. Media coverage was severely restricted.

On the election day, the few independent election observers who were present at the polling stations, as well as journalists and civic activists, have reported mass falsifications. A number of foreign journalists were detained and taken to the police stations due to lacking accreditation which most of them applied for in a timely manner but received rejections. Internet and mobile connection in the country was poor since early morning of the election day and most of social media and independent news sites were blocked. By the evening, military vehicles arrived in Minsk and public transport was shut down. After the preliminary official results were announced in the evening, mass peaceful protests started in the city centers in Minsk, Brest, Mogilev and dozens of other cities across the country. Witnesses reported brutal assaults of the protestors by the riot police. They used water cannons, flash grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and brutal force against the protestors. Dozens of injured protesters are in hospitals; several are in critical conditions. According to the official data, at least three thousand protestors have been detained. We consider disproportionate and brutal use of force and detention of protestors illegal.

Given the developments in the run-up to the elections and on the election day, we consider these elections the most violent and non-transparent in the modern history of Belarus. Official results of the elections cannot be considered reflecting the true will of Belarusian people.

We demand that the Belarusian authorities:

  • Acknowledge massive irregularities in holding the elections and publish the election results reflecting the true choice of the Belarusian people;
  • Engage in direct dialogue with representatives of independent candidates to negotiate a peaceful and legal way out of the crisis;
  • Immediately stop unwarranted violence against protesters, release the detained, and respect the right to peaceful assembly;
  • Observe the rights of all detainees and immediately notify their families about their whereabouts and provide unhindered access for lawyers;
  • Hold an independent, prompt and effective investigation of cases of violence, with maximum transparency and under international control, to end impunity on the part of the security forces;
  • End the blocking of the Internet and obstructing the work of journalists.

We call on the international community, and in particular other OSCE participating States:

  • Not to recognize the election outcome that has been officially announced;
  • Direct urgent efforts towards de-escalation and launching a mediated dialogue on a peaceful way out of the crisis respecting the principles of international law, that would include all sectors of Belarusian society that want to engage on this basis;
  • Hold an urgent discussion in the OSCE on the crisis in Belarus, and consider the invoking the OSCE Moscow Mechanism as the most relevant and expedient way to hold an internationally trusted investigation into the events in Belarus;
  • Hold urgent consultations in the EU on the events in Belarus and consider relevant and adequate reaction to the possibly most violent and non-transparent elections in the modern Belarus history;
  • Hold an urgent debate on the crisis in Belarus at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. We urge the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to take a lead in the UN Human Rights reaction to the events in Belarus and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus to produce an urgent report and present it to the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly.

List of organizations supporting the appeal:

  1. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
  2. Center for Participation and Development (Georgia)
  3. Truth Hounds (Ukraine)
  4. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  5. Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement (Ukraine)
  6. Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
  7. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
  8. Foundation of Regional Initiatives (Ukraine)
  9. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
  10. International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)
  11. World Organization against Torture (OMCT) (Belgium)
  12. Human Rights Center (Georgia)
  13. Kharkiv Regional Foundation Public Alternative (Ukraine)
  14. Public Association “Dignity” (Kazakhstan)
  15. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  16. Human Rights Center ZMINA (Ukraine)
  17. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)
  18. DRA – German-Russian Exchange (Germany)
  19. Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
  20. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
  21. Freedom Files (Poland)
  22. Office of Civil Freedoms (Tajikistan)
  23. Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
  24. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
  25. Social Action Centre (Ukraine)
  26. Public Association “Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
  27. Swiss Helsinki Committee
  28. Citizens’ Watch (Russia)
  29. Norwegian Helsinki Committee
  30. Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (Azerbaijan/Switzerland)
  31. Human Rights Club (Azerbaijan/Switzerland)
  32. Moscow Helsinki Group (Russia)
  33. Public Foundation “Voice of Freedom” (Kyrgyzstan)
  34. Human Rights Center Memorial (Russia)
  35. OSCE Network (Sweden)
  36. SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Russia)
  37. Women of the Don (Russia)
  38. The Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
  39. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
  40. Helsinki Association (Armenia)
  41. The Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medial Rehabilitation of Torture Victims – GCRT
  42. humanrights.ch (Switzerland)
  43. Promo LEX (Moldova)
  44. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Slovakia
  45. Free Russia Foundation (the U.S., Ukraine, Georgia, the Czech Republic)

Originally published by Civic Solidarity Platform

Photo credit: TUT.BY

Criminal operations by Russia’s GRU worldwide: expert discussion

May 06 2021

Please join Free Russia Foundation for an expert brief and discussion on latest criminal operations conducted by Russia’s GRU worldwide with:

  • Christo Grozev, Bellingcat— the legendary investigator who uncovered the Kremlin’s involvement, perpetrators and timeline of Navalny’s assassination attempt. 
  • Jakub Janda, Director of the European Values Think Tank (the Czech Republic) where he researches Russia’s hostile influence operations in the West
  • Michael Weiss, Director of Special Investigations at Free Russia Foundation where he leads the Lubyanka Files project, which consists of translating and curating KGB training manuals still used in modern Russia for the purposes of educating Vladimir Putin’s spies.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 11 from 11 am to 12:30pm New York Time (17:00 in Brussels) and include an extensive Q&A with the audience moderated by Ilya Zaslavskiy, Senior Fellow at Free Russia Foundation and head of Underminers.info, a research project on post-Soviet kleptocracy

The event will be broadcast live at: https://www.facebook.com/events/223365735790798/

  • The discussion will cover Russia’s most recent and ongoing covert violent operations, direct political interference, oligarchic penetration with money and influence; 
  • GRU’s structure and approach to conducting operations in Europe
  • Trends and forecasts on how data availability will impact both, the Kremlin’s operations and their investigation by governments and activists; 
  • EU and national European government response and facilitation of operations on their soil; 
  • Recommendations for effective counter to the security and political threats posed by Russian security services. 

YouTube Against Navalny’s Smart Voting

May 06 2021

On May 6, 2020, at least five YouTube channels belonging to key Russian opposition leaders and platforms received notifications from YouTube that some of their content had been removed due to its being qualified as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

They included: 

Ilya Yashin (343k YouTube subscribers)

Vladimir Milov (218k YouTube subscribers) 

Leonid Volkov (117k YouTube subscribers)

Novaya Gazeta (277k YouTube Subscribers) 

Sota Vision (248k YouTube Subscribers)

Most likely, there are other Russian pro-democracy channels that have received similar notifications at the same time, and we are putting together the list of all affected by this censorship campaign. 

The identical letters received from YouTube by the five account holders stated:

“Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our spam, deceptive practices and scams policy. We’ve removed the following content from YouTube:

URL: https://votesmart.appspot.com/

YouTube has removed urls from descriptions of videos posted on these accounts that linked to Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting website (votesmart.appspot.com).

By doing this, and to our great shock and disbelief, YouTube has acted to enforce the Kremlin’s policies by qualifying Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting system and its website as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

This action has not only technically disrupted communication for the Russian civil society which is now under a deadly siege by Putin’s regime, but it has rendered a serious and lasting damage to its reputation and legitimacy of Smart Voting approach. 

In reality, Smart Voting system is not a spam, scam or a “deceptive practice”, but instead it’s a fully legitimate system of choosing and supporting candidates in Russian elections who have a chance of winning against the ruling “United Russia” party candidates. There’s absolutely nothing illegal, deceptive or fraudulent about the Smart Voting or any materials on its website.

We don’t know the reasons behind such YouTube actions, but they are an unacceptable suppression of a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the Russian people and help the Kremlin’s suppression of civil rights and freedoms by banning the Smart Voting system and not allowing free political competition with the ruling “United Russia” party. 

This is an extremely dangerous precedent in an environment where opposition activities in Russia are being literally outlawed;  key opposition figures are jailed, exiled, arrested and attacked with criminal investigations; independent election campaigning is prohibited; and social media networks remain among the very few channels still available to the Russian opposition to communicate with the ordinary Russians.

We demand a  swift and decisive action on this matter from the international community, to make sure that YouTube corrects its stance toward Russian opposition channels, and ensures that such suppression of peaceful, legal  pro-democracy voices does not happen again. 

FRF Lauds New US Sanctions Targeting the Kremlin’s Perpetrators in Crimea, Calls for Their Expansion

Apr 15 2021

On April 15, 2021,  President Biden signed new sanctions against a number of officials and agents of the Russian Federation in connection with malign international activities conducted by the Russian government.

The list of individuals sanctioned by the new law includes Leonid Mikhalyuk, director of the Federal Security Service in the Russian-occupied Crimea.

A report issued by Free Russia Foundation, Media Initiative for Human Rights and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in December 202, identified 16 officials from Russian law enforcement and security agencies as well as the judiciary operating on the territory of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula currently occupied by the Russian Federation. These individuals have been either directly involved or have overseen political persecution of three prominent Crimean human rights defenders – Emir-Usein Kuku, Sever Mustafayev and Emil Kurbedinov.

Leonid Mikhailiuk is one of these officials. He has been directly involved and directed the repressive campaign in the occupied Crimea, including persecution of innocent people on terrorism charges and massive illegal searches. The persecution of Server Mustafayev was conducted under his supervision. As the head of the FSB branch in Crimea, he is in charge of its operation and all operatives working on politically motivated cases are his subordinates. 

Within the extremely centralized system of the Russian security services, Mikhailiuk is clearly at the top rank of organized political persecution and human rights violations.

Free Russia Foundation welcomes the new sanctions and hopes that all other individuals identified in the report will also be held accountable.

Joint Call of Parliamentarians on the condition of Alexei Navalny in prison

Apr 08 2021

April 8, 2021

We, the undersigned, are shocked and troubled by the most recent news of Alexei Navalny’s condition in prison. 

Russia’s leading opposition figure is reported to suffer severe back pain with losing sensitivity in parts of his legs. It is no more than six months since he survived a vicious poisoning attack with a nerve agent that has long-term crippling effects on his health. In prison, he is systematically denied any medical treatment. On top, prison guards wake him up every hour at night, a practice amounting to torture by sleep deprivation according to his lawyers. This is why medical experts called on the Russian authorities to allow Mr. Navalny’s treatment and why he himself now resorted to a hunger strike. Let’s not forget: Mr. Navalny’s incarceration itself is a travesty of justice – he was formally sent to prison for not checking in with Russian authorities on a fabricated case (as confirmed by European Court of Human Rights) when he was recuperating in Germany from poisoning and subsequent coma.

Russian authorities with its secret services tried to kill Alexei Navalny last August, they may now be attempting the same, in a slower, even more cynical way. 

Europe has offered Alexei Navalny a place to recover from the attempt at his life. Specialized labs in Germany, France and Sweden confirmed the assassination attempt used Novichok, an internationally banned chemical weapon. Angela Merkel personally met Mr Navalny in hospital and many other Western leaders expressed their solidarity after the poisoning attack. We need to intervene again. 

We urge Russia to immediately allow medical treatment of Alexei Navalny and release him from prison. We call on the EU Council as well as EU member states’ leaders to reach out to Russian authorities to request the immediate release of Alexei Navalny, which was mandated by European Court of Human Rights’ decision in February 2021. In addition, we demand the EU Council task EU ambassador to Russia to conduct, together partners from the UK, Canada and the US, a visit of the prison facility and meet Alexei Navalny. It is critical now that Alexei Navalny’s fate became the symbol of injustice many thousands face because of increasing brutality of Russian regime against its own citizens. 

In December 2020, the EU launched its Global Human Rights Sanction Regime modelled on so-called Magnitsky Act. This law has been inspired by one Sergei Magnitsky, a brave Russian lawyer who was tortured to death in prison in 2009 – he was systematically denied treatment when he developed a serious medical condition. We still can act now in case of Alexei Navalny so we avoid commemorating later.

Marek HILSER, Senator, Czech Republic

Andrius KUBILIUS, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Lukas WAGENKNECHT, Senator, Czech Republic

Žygimantas PAVILIONIS, MP, Lithuania

Miroslav BALATKA, Senator, Czech Republic

André GATTOLIN, Senator, France

Mikulas BEK, Senator, Czech Republic 

Nicolae ŞTEFĂNUȚĂ, MEP, Renew, Romania

David SMOLJAK, Senator, Czech Republic 

Petras AUŠTREVIČIUS, MEP, Renew, Lithuania

Tomas FIALA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Liudas MAŽYLIS, MEP, EPP Lithuania

Zdenek NYTRA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Dace MELBĀRDE, MEP, ECR, Latvia

Jan SOBOTKA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Matas MALDEIKIS, MP, Lithuania

Jiri RUZICKA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Bernard GUETTA, MEP, Renew, France

Jaromira VITKOVA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Rasa JUKNEVIČIENĖ, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Petr OREL, Senator, Czech Republic 

Tomasz FRANKOWSKI, MEP, EPP, Poland 

Miroslava NEMCOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Hermann TERTSCH, MEP, ECR, Spain

Premysl RABAS, Senator, Czech Republic 

Aušra MALDEIKIENĖ, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Ladislav KOS, Senator, Czech Republic 

Attila ARA-KOVÁCS, MEP, S&D, Hungary

Sarka JELINKOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Erik MARQUARDT, MEP, Greens, Germany

Pavel FISCHER, Senator, Czech Republic

Pernille WEISS, MEP, EPP, Denmark

Helena LANGSADLOVA, MP, Czech Republic

Roberts ZĪLE, MEP, ECR, Latvia

Jan LIPAVSKY, MP, Czech Republic

Klemen GROŠELJ, MEP, Renew, Slovenia

Pavel ZACEK, MP, Czech Republic

Riho TERRAS, MEP, EPP, Estonia

Ondrej BENESIK, MP, Czech Republic 

Miriam LEXMANN, MEP, EPP, Slovakia

Frantisek KOPRIVA, MP, Czech Republic 

Sandra KALNIETE, MEP, EPP, Latvia

Petr GAZDIK, MP, Czech Republic 

Jerzy BUZEK, MEP, EPP, Poland

Tomas MARTINEK, MP, Czech Republic 

Janina OCHOJSKA, MEP, EPP, Poland

Jan BARTOSEK, MP, Czech Republic

Eugen TOMAC, MEP, EPP, Romania

Jan FARSKY, MP, Czech Republic

Ivan ŠTEFANEC, MEP, EPP, Slovakia

Roman SKLENAK, MP, Czech Republic

Krzysztof HETMAN, MEP, EPP, Poland

Frantisek VACHA, MP, Czech Republic

Ivars IJABS, MEP, Renew, Latvia

Marek VYBORNY, MP, Czech Republic

Franc BOGOVIČ, MEP, EPP, Slovenia

Zbynek STANJURA, MP, Czech Republic

Radvilė MORKŪNAITĖ-MIKULĖNIENĖ, MP, Lithuania

Petr FIALA, MP, Czech Republic

Raphaël GLUCKSMANN, MEP, S&D, France

Vít RAKUSAN, MP, Czech Republic

Juozas OLEKAS, MEP, S&D, Lithuania

Jaroslav VYMAZAL, MP, Czech Republic

Assita KANKO, MEP, ECR, Belgium

Adela SIPOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Radosław SIKORSKI, MEP, EPP, Poland

Róża THUN UND HOHENSTEIN, MEP, EPP, Poland

Javier NART, MEP, Renew, Spain

Andrzej HALICKI, MEP, EPP, Poland

Alexander ALEXANDROV YORDANOV, MEP, EPP, Bulgaria

Ondřej KOVAŘÍK, MEP, Renew, Czech Republic

Andreas SCHIEDER, MEP, S&D, Austria

Leopoldo LÓPEZ GIL, MEP, EPP, Spain

Sergey LAGODINSKY, MEP, Greens, Germany

Antonio LÓPEZ-ISTÚRIZ WHITE, MEP, EPP, Spain

Marketa GREGOROVA, MEP, Greens, Czech Republic

Lolita ČIGĀNE, MP, Latvia

Marko MIHKELSON, MP, Estonia

Renata CHMELOVA, Czech Republic

Bogdan KLICH, Senator, Republic of Poland

Transatlantic Interparliamentary Statement on Unprecedented Mass Arrest of Russian Pro-Democracy Leaders on March 13, 2021

Mar 25 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 25, 2021

Contacts:
Honourable Irwin Cotler, PC, OC, OQ, Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights
+1 514.735.8778
Natalia Arno, Free Russia Foundation
+1 202.549.2417

TRANSATLANTIC INTERPARLIAMENTARY STATEMENT
On unprecedented mass arrest of Russian pro-democracy leaders on March 13, 2021

“We, the undersigned members of the foreign affairs committees of legislatures around the world – the duly elected democratic voices of our constituents and countries – unreservedly condemn the unprecedented mass arrest of Russian pro-democracy leaders. 

A violation of the Russian constitution and of the country’s international legal obligations, these unjust and arbitrary arrests are an assault on the last bastion of the Russian democratic movement. United in common cause, we call for an end to Putin’s punitive persecution and prosecutions of Russian civil society leaders, the release of all political prisoners, and the imposition of targeted Magnitsky sanctions against Russia’s architects of repression.

The crimes perpetrated by Putin’s regime against the Russian people and against the international community have been deadly and are well-documented. Left unchecked, its internal repression has often morphed into external aggression. Wars, murders, theft, embezzlement, nuclear blackmail, disinformation, election interference — they are so numerous and now so well-known, that we feel no need to enumerate all of them in this letter. Under the cover of Covid restrictions, we have seen a further intensification of these trends.

Last year, Putin’s regime illegally amended the Russian constitution, executing a constitutional coup, allowing Putin to stay in power indefinitely and thereby formalizing the Russian transition to authoritarianism. 

In January, he arrested Aleksey Navalny, who was punished with a nearly three-year prison term for not meeting his parole obligations because he was out of the country convalescing from a state-sponsored assassination attempt. Putin then brutally suppressed the nation-wide protests that emerged in Navalny’s support, arbitrarily arresting thousands, and launching criminal prosecutions against them.

On March 13th, security services entered a perfectly lawful Congress of elected municipal deputies and detained nearly 200 people for not adhering to the Kremlin’s command of how to interact with local constituents. In today’s Russia, disagreeing with Putin is not tolerated, and those who do find themselves in jail or worse.

Some of those detained included elected leaders like Ilya Yashin and Maxim Reznik, pro-democracy reformers Andrey Pivovarov and Anastasia Burakova, and popular politician Vladimir Kara-Murza. Mr. Kara-Murza is a top public intellectual and opposition leader whose transformative work on behalf of the Russian people has had a global resonance. His vision and values – eloquently conveyed with a uniquely compelling moral clarity and commitment, often before our respective legislatures – led to his earlier being targeted by the regime for assassination, attempts on his life that he survived twice. The work of such courageous leaders continues to be a source of inspiration in our pursuit of collective peace, security, and dignity for all.

For a society to succeed it must have a set of principles and values that guides it. Most notably, this includes a legal system that honors the rights of all its people and not solely for those who deem themselves leaders and the sycophants who profit from them.

Sadly, these recent developments demonstrate yet again that only Putin’s criminality and impunity prevail in Russia today. The way the regime runs its politics is indistinguishable from the way it runs its foreign policy and its business dealings. To indulge such malign behavior by the Kremlin toward those it disagrees with is to encourage its corrosive behavior in all these other areas.

The democracies of the world have a choice: maintain a normal relationship with a rogue state, continuing to send the message that its treatment of its own citizens is to be overlooked, and its malicious activities are to be condoned. Or, sending a clear and compelling message: that until the Kremlin reverses its troubling trajectory, the current status quo will be unacceptable. This includes targeted sanctions against Putin and his corrupt and criminal cronies – such as canceling access to our banking system, business ties, and safe harbor in our best neighborhoods and schools – ensuring that they cannot enjoy the liberties in our countries that they deny their compatriots in theirs. 

For the sake of a free Russia and a free world, we trust democracies will make the right choice.”

Rasa Jukneviciene, Member of the European Parliament

Andrius Kubilius, Member of the European Parliament

Miriam Lexmann, Member of the European Parliament

Pavel Fischer, Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security of the Senate of the Czech Republic

Marko Mihkelson, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia

Richards Kols, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Seimas of the Republic of Latvia

Žygimantas Pavilions, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania

Bogdan Klich, Senator, Chairman of the Foreign and European Union Committee of the Senate of the Republic of Poland

Eerik Niiles Kross, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia

Emanuelis Zingeris, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania

Benjamin L. Cardin, Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation; Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission)

Bill Keating, Member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations and Chair of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment

Brian Fitzpatrick, Member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations

Kimberley Kitching, Senator, Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Deputy Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Parliament of Australia

Chris Bryant, Member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the UK Parliament

Bob Seely, Member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the UK Parliament